Vowing to overturn existing theories on anti-incumbency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked his workers to ensure two things: that there was no belittling of Opposition candidates; and that the BJP must report a victory in every booth. Addressing a BJP workers’ meeting, where supporters cheered wildly, Modi said: “After yesterday’s road show, it seems the voters have already decided who will win.”
He said he would be caught up in the campaign all over India and might not be able to return to Varanasi. In that sense, he would be a candidate who will fill the form and not show his face again. In kinetic response, the workers yelled: “Ham sambhaal lenge. Ham jitayenge. (We will manage. We will make you win).”
After the Congress declaration on Thursday that Ajay Rai, a local leader, and not Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would be the candidate against Modi, the average BJP workers believe there is no contest any more. Modi virtually underlined this feeling, “No matter how much filth our rivals throws on us, we will not respond. There will be no enmity, no slurs, no danga (rioting). No comments on what the rivals look like, what they say, what they believe. Only friendliness…”
But for all that, Modi said he wanted a landmark election where the BJP performs even better than before — a record return. He specifically referred to two categories of voters he wanted workers to focus on: the first-time voter and women.
“No matter what party he might be from, I want you to celebrate the first-time voter by inviting him and putting a piece of gur (jaggery) in his mouth. He is the future hope of Indian democracy.” He also said workers needed to work to ensure the turnout of women was 5 per cent more than the men in every booth. “I tried in Gujarat but failed to ensure this. I may have failed, but you (the workers) in Varanasi will make sure this dream comes true,” he said.
He also established a note of camaraderie with the workers: “I am a pacca amdavadi. I can tell you of a way to minimise your expenses during elections: your television and electricity bill, your tea, lunch and dinner expenses and your newspaper bill. In the morning, visit the families around your booth. They will offer you tea, right? Alongside will be a newspaper. One expense gone. Talk to them about life and democracy. Then set out at lunchtime. Begin by telling the women in the house; “You must travel with me to the polling booth. Don’t omit to tell her ‘bhabhiji aap ke haath ka khaana…’ you will instantly be asked to stay for lunch. Then in the evening there will be some interview on television: tell the family: “You must watch this interview… No TV network needed.”
Modi’s interaction in Varanasi will linger long after the election result is declared. But whether his appeal will resonate in the Muslim dominated areas in the constituency will hold the key to an even higher margin than before.
After filing his nomination, the Prime Minister, in his affidavit to the Election Commission, declared assets worth Rs 2.5 crore, including a residential plot in Gujarat's Gandhinagar, fixed deposits of Rs 1.27 crore and Rs 38,750 cash in hand.
Modi has named Jashodaben as his wife and declared that he has an MA degree from Gujarat University in 1983. The affidavit said he was an arts graduate from Delhi University (1978). He passed SSC exam from Gujarat board in 1967, it said.
He has declared movable assets worth Rs 1.41 crore and immovable assets valued at Rs 1.1 crore.
(With inputs from PTI)